Here at The Red Lion, we’re so very lucky to have such a strong village community. Not only do we have some wonderful annual events that draw crowds from all over, including Armed Forces Day, Odiham Summer Fete and Flavourfest, but we also have a wonderful array of independent shops; and, in line with our own ethos of sourcing local produce, we are keen to promote the achievements of our local business friends.
With this in mind, we are incredibly proud to announce that we are partnering up with Moutan Florist, Odiham. This luxury floristry brand, who are in the process of moving into larger premises, will be opening up a dedicated Flower School of events to run alongside their florist shop and, our team here at The Red Lion, will be supplying the freshly prepared, delicious refreshments and lunches, using only the finest locally sourced ingredients. For those travelling from afar or wanting to make a unique weekend experience whilst attending these quality workshops, we will also be offering special rates to stay overnight in our boutique accommodation, you could even book a private workshop just for you and your friends and hire our 7 bedrooms exclusively on a dinner, bed and breakfast package for an extra special celebration.
To mark our exciting partnership, we caught up with local entrepreneur and founder of Moutan, Julie Allen, prior to the official launch of the new shop to learn a little bit more about her…so grab a cuppa and settle in for a read, you might even pick up a few top tips!
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
Most of my childhood was spent overseas and I have very happy memories growing up in Hong Kong surrounded by many friends and enjoying all the excitement of living in a bustling and chaotic city. We settled back in the UK when I was 13 years old and have since always lived in and around Odiham, although my work has taken me further afield.
I studied art at Farnham College and soon realised that I had a passion for flowers! I turned my love of painting flowers into working with them and spent my formative years as a young florist training in a few different places and then with the fabulous Paula Pryke. In 2002 I launched Moutan taking my first shop on Odiham High Street and then a second followed in 2008 on Hartley Wintney High Street. I work very closely with my husband, Jason, who is a freelance professional photographer and a partner in the business and between us, we balance our work with family life. We have one son who is now 10 and two dogs, residing in a beautiful cottage in North Warnborough with family close by – life is busy but we wouldn’t have it any other way!
And can you tell us a bit more about your little floristry empire?
Moutan has now been on the high street in Odiham since 2002, 17 glorious years! Then in 2008, we were offered the opportunity to take on a shop on Hartley Wintney high street, just as the recession was hitting. It was a risky time to be investing, but we jumped at the chance to be part of the community in such a thriving village and we couldn’t be more pleased that we took that risk, as the high street has since grown from strength to strength.
We have a fabulous team working with us – 5 permanent florists, 2 drivers, 2 Saturday staff and a team on hand to assist us with events. Our flower shops are full with fresh seasonal cut flowers, flowering plants, green plants and succulents, luxury fragrant candles, pots, vases and accessories. We welcome our customers to visit and shop in store and it’s great to have built up such a loyal following with many returning and repeat customers. We also take a lot of orders over the phone and via our website, offering local delivery via our dedicated drivers in our Moutan branded vans.
We are as happy helping our customers choose a few stems for their home as we are making a hand-tied bouquet, or designing floral arrangements for weddings and events. We have a dedicated meeting room in our Hartley Wintney store where we meet event clients and work through designs with them on a range of events from birthdays to intimate weddings to large scale weddings with bridal party flowers to church and reception dressing. We are also here to help design and make floral tributes for funerals and remembrance services and we are always touched by the responsibility we are given by families in their times of need.
You are about to move into larger premises, just a few doors up from your existing shop, how exciting. Can you tell us a bit more about your plans for the shop and its future?
Yes, it is very exciting! We have outgrown our little shop – it’s been a wonderful place to work from however we are thrilled at the opportunity of taking on a larger space, which is more prominent on the high street, allowing us to bring a new and exciting shop to the high street. Essentially our new shop will be a Flower Shop, it is what we do best after all, however, we will be able to offer a wider range of home and garden wares and a larger selection of indoor and outdoor plants. We have always wanted to have a shop which includes an ‘arrangement bar’ where our customers can sit and watch our florists in action! For too long now florists have hidden away creating floral masterpieces, behind the scenes; we want to be the flower shop that showcases its talent and, with our new shop, we will be able to do this!
We will also be launching the Hampshire Flower School offering courses and workshops in floristry and contemporary crafts – we are working on a timetable at the moment so watch this space!
What would you say has been your great successes to date?
Every single order we receive, whether it be someone walking into our shops, calling us, ordering online or booking us for an event or a contract; each and every sale is a success and of equal importance. As per most small businesses, it is the small scale balanced with the large scale that makes us a success – we can only do what we do because of our customers and dedicated team; I am thankful each and every day that I can continue working with what I love, because of them.
Running your own business can be incredibly hard work, do you have any top tips for those looking to set up their own business?
Yes, INCREDIBLY hard work! My top tips would be time management, building a great team and developing strong skills in balancing home and work life – there’s nothing revolutionary in the way that I manage Moutan it’s simply dedication, hard work and passion.
Do you have plans to further grow the business?
Yes, we have lots of ideas and plans, but that would be giving away BIG secrets! There’s more exciting news to announce for Moutan later in the year….all in good time, we have a shop launch to focus on for now!
Tell us a bit more about your exciting plans and calendar of events for your floristry school and workshops?
We are planning a range of floral events, from a one-day seasonal wreath or table arrangement to longer workshops focusing on floristry skills which are designed to offer beginners to intermediary instructor-led courses. We are also hard at work in finalising our workshop timetable for contemporary crafts such as modern calligraphy, jewellery, willow sculpting and many more. The studio space where we will host these events will also be available to rent for pop-up shops or those wishing to run a workshop or event of their own. All will be publicised in due course and reservations will be bookable via our website. We have partnered with The Red Lion to provide deliciously fresh, local and seasonal food treats for our guests to enjoy during their workshops, think sharing boards, thick-cut sandwiches bursting with flavour and home-cooked fluffy scones with thick, clotted cream and jams.
Other than floristry, what other hobbies do you have that help you to relax?
I love gardens and gardening and Monty Don (and Nigel and Nell!), so if I’m not in our garden I will most likely be found watching BBC Gardeners World – but don’t tell my friends, they think that I’m a party girl!!!
What would be a typical ‘working day’ for you?
I wake up early to get my son ready for school. Like a lot of working mums, I am often catching up with messages at the breakfast table whilst balancing cups of tea, buttering toast and feeding the dogs! The school run then ensues, which, unfortunately, does mean a drive for one of us – that’s living in the countryside for you! Then it’s on to one of the shops to help with setting up for the day or collecting flowers for a contract. All these years on and I still work my fair share of weekends, so you will often find me knee-deep in foliage and flowers dressing churches, reception venues and hotel ballrooms for parties. No two days are ever the same, although all days are busy, but I must admit, nothing beats that feeling at the end of a long day when I finally flop onto the sofa with a glass of wine – this would be after I have collected my son from school, ferried him to his various after-school clubs, cooked the dinner, helped with homework, walked the dogs, put the washing on, supervised bath time and ensured everyone that should be sleeping is asleep!
What are the current ‘trends’ taking shape in the floristry world?
There is a move towards British cut flowers – we recently blogged about this. Also, as for most industries, there’s lots of talk about how to make floristry more eco-friendly which is something that we are working hard on at the moment. Other trends include the relaxed boho-style, which has made a move from weddings into the home and of course coral, the colour of 2019, is everywhere!
Trends can be a difficult thing though and I have always believed that you should use seasonal flowers in colours that make you happy. We have seen the rise and fall of the gladioli and for the last few years, dahlia’s have been the flower. However, if you move with the seasons you will find beauty and inspiration in lots of different flowers and colours. I love to make my bouquets and arrangements ‘zing’ and so enjoy seeing a vibrant green with a shocking pink as much as I love a vase filled with peonies, which is my favourite flower by the way and where Moutan gets its name!.
What will customers find in your new shop?
Apart from the obvious cut flowers and plants that you would expect, we have a beautiful range of candles and bath & body items as well as cards, pots and other accessories. You will always find a lovely selection of seasonal items too, such as Christmas and Easter decorations. We look forward to welcoming all customers into our new abode soon!